The health and safety of the GSD community is of paramount importance. As designers, planners, and builders we create healthy livable spaces for others, and we seek to provide the same for ourselves in GSD facilities.

Guiding Principles

Creative work necessarily entails some amount of disorder, spontaneity, flexibility, and risk-taking , we know, but we expect some basic principles of civil behavior and environmental health and safety to prevail at all times at the GSD. The now universal smoking ban in inhabited spaces should include a broader prohibition on other forms of air pollution or toxic emissions—not only to protect the lungs, but to protect the whole respiratory system, as well as visual, auditory, olfactory, endocrine, and other fragile human systems. We expect these prohibitions to be self-evident, but also provide more detailed information below.

A guiding principle: “If a material or process  is known to have unwanted environmental consequences, we should work to eliminate it from all  public spaces, such as GSD trays, classrooms, offices, bathrooms, hallways, labs, etc — even the public outside air ! And just because it doesn’t smell or feel bad to you, doesn’t mean that other members of the community don’t have a sensitivity to it.”

Use with Proper Ventilation‘ is a warning associated with many volatile materials, solvents, paints, adhesives, resins, etc. As a rule of thumb, at the GSD that means either outside, or in a properly employed functioning spray-booth — properly employed includes using only approved spays within the zone of evacuated air;  and functioning means turned on and operating correctly.

All GSD students are expected to be familiar with the Fab Lab requirements, policies, and online resources regarding Material Safety, including the Hazardous Materials Policy and required Web-Based Training Course. 

Consult the Hazardous Materials Flow Chart and Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for all materials you intend to use at the GSD. Safety Data Sheets for materials known to be present at the GSD are retained here. If you know of a material present at the GSD that does not have an SDS available here, please inform Fabrication Lab staff.

Penalties for violations of safety or health-related protocols and regulations may be assessed by FabLab Staff and the Dean of Students’ office.

Environmental Health Resources

The GSD’s Environmental Safety Compliance Officer (ESCO) is Kevin Cahill, Director of Facilities Management, in the Building Services department.

Harvard’s Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) department provides support, guidance, and resources to assist the schools/department with compliance with Federal EPA, OSHA, and Massachusetts regulatory agencies. The Designated Safety Officer for the GSD is Mark Collins, the EH&S Associate Director of Facilities and Life Safety.

Rachel Vroman, Manager of the GSD Fabrication Laboratory, oversees materials and processes approved for in use in the FabLab. Please contact [email protected] with any questions or concerns.

The Safe Technologies, Environments, And Processes (STEP) Taskforce is a GSD student and staff run group dedicated to advocating for safe technologies, environments, and processes. For more information, contact [email protected].


Where can I get more information on Environmental Health and Safety at the GSD / Harvard?

See the links to resources above.

What should I do if I have health/safety questions about a particular material or process?

Try to get a Safety Data Sheet for the material. Consult with a Fab Lab staff member.

What should I do if I observe a dangerous situation or behavior?

See GSD resource page: Emergencies

What kinds of monitoring and remediation does the GSD / Harvard do?

Harvard’s EH&S organization routinely monitors air quality and other conditions at the GSD, especially in the Fabrication Lab. EH&S conducts annual inspections of the GSD facilities. Copies of reports and recommendations are available for review with the ESCO.

Recent reports of air quality evaluations :

  • (PDF) Report from Harvard EH&S about Air Quality monitoring @ GSD
  • (multi-page PDF) Report from outside consultant TRC about Air Quality monitoring @ GSD

What  is the STEP Task Force?

In April 2018 a small group of GSD staff and students formed the “Safe Technologies and Processes” (STEP) Task Force, and set about thinking about and planning for ways to reduce risks and environmental ill-effects of design- and fabrication- related materials and processes, and to increase communications and awareness among the GSD community. For more information, or with questions, or comments please email : [email protected]

 Q&A (PDF) posted Fall 2018  in response to student questions about Air Quality monitoring efforts and measurements  @ GSD.